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Washington University Student Union Raises $15K Hoping to Bring James Deen, Sasha Grey, Tori Black to Campus for Sex Week

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St. Louis- from – The meeting may have opened with a student appeal for a TED conference, but sex week appeals dominated Tuesday’s Student Union Treasury meeting.

Treasury funded about $15,000 to students hoping to bring Sasha Grey, Tori Black, James Deen and Lance Hart, four porn stars, to campus for a panel discussion about the adult film industry and sexual health and wellness as the keynote event in Sex Week this spring in a narrow 9-8 decision.

They also allocated $14,000 for an independent TED event, TEDxWUSTL, in a 14-2 vote and rejected an Alternative Lifestyle Association appeal to put on kink workshops during the February event.

Porn star James Deen has recently been active in the public sphere with his opposition to Measure B, a California requirement that porn performers must wear condoms in all scenes filmed in Los Angeles. Sasha Grey retired from the adult film industry last year at the age of 23.

Kate Cygan, junior and Sex Week chair on the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC), emphasized the different perspectives each porn star would offer on the panel.

“If you bring just Tori Black, she’s mainstream porn. You also don’t get the aspect of breadth from having both men and women to attract a wider audience,” Cygan said.

Jacob Walker, senior and treasury representative, expressed major support for the panel.

“[The porn stars] all bring very different perspectives. They [SHAC] expect 400 people, and I’m very confident in that number. Even if it were four porn stars nobody had ever heard of, people would show up…we’re here to fund things that students want to see,” Walker said.

Treasury debated whether to fund all four performers or a subset, especially considering travel and lodging was not included in this appeal.

“I would prefer to have all four speakers because we underestimate the power of branding,” senior and Treasury representative Michael Rudolph said. “If you were to stick Sasha Grey and Tori Black on a poster, I know a lot of people would show up.”

Brian Baker, junior and SHAC Sex Week committee member, suggested the event was key to cap off a unique University tradition since replicated at Harvard and Yale.

“Sex Week was one of the first of its kind. It has since inspired others at other schools to have their own events,” Baker said.

The first appeal at Tuesday’s meeting was for a TEDxWUSTL conference that looks to host three nationally-renowned speakers in addition to some professors, students and St. Louis natives. The group said they were trying to bring Steve Wozniak of Apple, David Sedaris of NPR and Salman Khan of Khan Academy, but that the efforts were in their infancy and could not move forward without a guaranteed conference.

Independent TED conferences are posted to the official TED website, which has an extensive online following.

The TED initiative, which recently reached one billion page views worldwide, promises “ideas worth spreading” in the form of short speeches given by any speaker with an interesting idea.

TEDx places a hard limit of 100 students allowed to attend the event, but that cap may be raised in future years after the organizers prove their ability to hold successful events at the University. Each speaker is limited to 18 minutes at the microphone, ensuring variety across the three hours.

Elliot Louthen, sophomore and president of TEDxWUSTL, emphasized that the high initial costs could be the beginning of a new University tradition.

“This is an investment moving forward. This event might seem expensive…but the fact of the matter is if we put the money in now, we can lower that cost moving forward, and this will ensure the longevity of TEDxWUSTL,” Louthen said.

Junior and Treasury representative Greg Porter expressed concern about funding based on the conference’s growth potential.

“I don’t like assuming things will happen next year or the year after. I don’t doubt the event itself being good, I just don’t want to put up money now if I don’t know what the future will be like,” Porter said.

Junior and Treasury rep. Michael Cohen supported the allocation decision.

“We don’t have enough events on campus that generate buzz. We should not in any way compromise this event. The ‘value to students’ idea needs to be thought about in a long-term sense,” Cohen said.

Logistics pending, about half of the conference cost will go to an outside company to edit and process professional quality videos for each talk. The videos will be posted on the official TED website as well as a site created for TEDxWUSTL.

Junior and TEDxWUSTL production chair Andrew Kamel hopes the recordings will help the group attain TED’s approval, allowing the University’s conference to expand and grow.

As of Tuesday, the group said that the University had not dedicated funding to the initiative.

“I think that if we’re going to let 100 people see this it’s at a good price, but if the school sees a lot of value in professional recording, they should chip in for that,” junior and treasury representative Jacob Trunsky, said.


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